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US Media: Simple Tricks to Provide Distorted Picture of Political Reality

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 25.04.2017

How biased are the US media, really? This is a frequently asked question. The answer is – they are biased very much and they know how to instill the vision of things in a quiet and unobtrusive way. Here is an example to prove the point.

«Defense Secretary Mattis Arrives at Only US Base in Africa» reads the Voice of America’s headline on April 23. «Only US Base in Africa»? It’s hard to believe one’s eyes but that’s what it says. This is a good example of what is called «inaccurate reporting», to put it mildly. Probably, some people will call it outright distortion because anyone who knows the first thing about military matters knows it has nothing to do with reality.

Suffice it to take a cursory look at the US military presence on the continent. Guess who is spending $100 million to build a new drone base in Niger? What about a “cooperative security location” in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, which provides surveillance and intelligence over the entire Sahel?

In recent years, the US Army has rolled out an extensive network of over 60 outposts and access points in at least 34 African countries – more than 60 percent of the nations on the continent. To compare, the US has only 50 diplomatic missions in Africa.

In his 2015 article for TomDispatch.com, Nick Turse, disclosed the existence of an «America’s empire» comprising dozens of US military installations in Africa, besides Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. These numerous cooperative security locations (CSLs), forward operating locations (FOLs) and other outposts have been built by the US in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. The US military also has had access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zambia and other countries.

According to a rough guide of foreign bases in Africa, the US military uses Garoua airport in northern Cameroon as a drone base for operations in northeastern Nigeria. It houses Predator drones and some 300 US soldiers. Predator and Reaper drones are based in Ndjamena, the capital of Chad. In Kenia, the military uses Camp Simba in Manda Bay as a base for naval personnel and Green Berets. It also houses armed drones for operations in Somalia and Yemen. In Niger, the American armed forces use Agadez, capable of handling large transport aircraft and armed Reaper drones. The base covers the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. US special operations forces (SOF) use compounds in Kismayo and Baledogle in Somalia. A drone base is operated on the island of Victoria, the Seychelles. PC-12 surveillance aircraft operate from Entebbe airport, Uganda.

At least 1,700 special operations forces (SOF) are deployed across 33 African nations at any given time supported by planes and drones. In 2006, just 1% of commandos sent overseas were deployed in the US Africa Command area of operations. In 2016, 17.26% of all US SOF – Navy SEALs and Green Berets among them deployed abroad were sent to Africa. They utilize nearly 20 different programs and activities – from training exercises to security cooperation engagements – these included Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, among others.

Drone warfare is a special case as the vehicles are carrying out combat missions in peacetime. The full scope of the US unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) program has long been shrouded from view. Only sketchy details emerge off and on about individual drone strikes. The US African Unified Command (AFRICOM) is known to operate at least nine UAV bases in Africa located in Djibouti, the Seychelles, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Niger, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.

Housing 4,000 military and civilian personnel, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, is the hub of a network of American drone bases in Africa. It is used for aerial strikes at insurgents in Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, as well as exercising control over the Bab-el-Mandeb strait – a strategic maritime waterway linking the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. In 2014, America signed a new 20-year lease on the base with the Djiboutian government, and committed over $1.4 billion to modernize and expand the facility in the years to come.

Unlike other installations, the Djibouti base is called a permanent facility. Not the only facility on the continent but the only «permanent» base. The US military uses the terms Main Operating Base (MOB), Forward Operating Site (FOS) and Cooperative Security Location (CSL). Camp Lemonnier is a MOB. The difference is the size of the presence and the scale of operations a facility is designed for. The terms used do not change the essence – the US uses a vast array of military installations in Africa and the presence keeps on growing. Temporary and permanent facilities are hard to distinguish – you sign an agreement and operate a facility as long as you need it. It’s just a play of words without any effect on substance. For instance, US forces are reported to be deployed in Europe on «rotational basis» or temporarily under the pretext of participation in exercises. Every army unit has an operational cycle, which inevitably includes various stages in training. From time to time, they leave home bases and rotate, moving from one location to another. All military career paths presuppose rotation. Using this or that term does not change the reality – US forces are constantly stationed near Russia’s borders on whatever «basis» it takes place.

It’s not only the increasing number military facilities in Africa and elsewhere. The Donald Trump administration is considering a military proposal that would designate various undeclared battlefields worldwide to be «temporary areas of active hostility». If approved, the measure would give military commanders the same latitude to launch strikes, raids and campaigns against enemy forces for up to six months that they possess in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. No top level permission will be required anymore. The authority could be pre-delegated to Defense Secretary James Mattis on extremely sensitive operations. It could be pushed down all the way down to the head of the Joint Special Operations Command for raids or drone strikes against pre-approved targets. If a high-value target is spotted, a force can move into action without wasting time.

How all these activities jibe with the pre-election promise «A Trump administration will never ever put the interest of a foreign country before the interest of our country. From now on, it’s going to be America first» is an open question. Looks like the whole «black continent» has become an area of vital interests for the United States. But reading the media headlines one gets the impression that it’s just «one base» on the huge continent. Not a big thing from point of view of expenditure and the extent of dangerous involvement in faraway conflicts that have no relation whatsoever to the national security, a reader may say. The lesson is – take what the media tell you with a grain of salt, never at face value. It would stand everyone in good stead.

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rwandan War Criminals Defeated in Congo, But AFRICOM Riding High

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | November 6, 2013

After 17 years and the death of six million Congolese, the United States has finally shifted gears in its efforts to dominate central Africa. Earlier this year, Washington cut off military aid to Rwanda, which, along with Uganda, another U.S. ally, has been looting and terrorizing the mineral-rich eastern Congo since 1996. All those years, U.S. Democratic and Republican administrations have lavished arms and money on the two client states, and protected them from sanction by international forums and courts. The genocide in the Congo was central to U.S. policy in the region. While 8 percent of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s population was dying, Rwanda and Ugandan soldiers and thugs got rich acting as middlemen, funneling Congo’s precious minerals to multinational corporations. Meanwhile, both Rwanda and Uganda supplied soldiers to every U.S.-approved military mission on the continent, acting as America’s mercenaries in Africa.

So, why did the U.S. alter its policy? First, international pressure finally made it untenable for Washington to continue deploying its Black henchmen to destabilize central Africa. President Obama appointed former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a liberal by American standards, as his emissary to the Great Lakes region of Africa, and halted delivery of weapons to Rwanda. The Americans allowed the United Nations to form a special, 3,000-man intervention brigade empowered to use force against the so-called rebel group M23, which is actually led by the Tutsi-dominated government of Rwanda. This week, UN intervention forces backed up the Congolese army defeated the M23, sending its remnants fleeing across the Rwandan and Ugandan borders. The “rebels” announced they would end their insurgency.

However, Rwanda has pulled these tricks before, and has never acknowledged that M23 is its own creation, or that many of the fighters’ top officers are, in fact, members of the Rwandan armed forces. According to Friends of Congo, the Washington-based advocacy group, there is only one way to ensure that M23 will not resurface by some other name, and that is to bring these genocidal criminals to trial. However, this would require that Rwanda turn them over to the Democratic Republic of Congo or some international authority. Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame cannot be expected to turn on his own men, and the United States would not relish a series of trials in which its own role in the slaughter of millions would be revealed in embarrassing detail.

Therefore, although Washington has put distance between itself and Rwanda, the U.S. has no intention of allowing anything approximating justice to break out in central Africa. The U.S. military command, AFRICOM, has grown by leaps and bounds under President Obama – who has permanently stationed a brigade of U.S. troops in Africa – and the reinforced United Nations military presence in the region does exactly what the United States tells it to. And finally, at the end of the day, the Rwandan and Ugandan regimes understand that they are only cogs in the imperial machine, and must do as they are told. The U.S. empire is alive and growing in central Africa.

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rwandan War Criminals Defeated in Congo, But AFRICOM Riding High

Israel Siphons off Africa’s Nile

By Jomana Farhat | Al Akhbar | July 30, 2012

Egyptian and Sudanese policy failures have lead to a looming strategic threat to both countries’ most important resources – the Nile. Israel has now signed an agreement with the South Sudanese authorities over rights to the country’s precious water source.

There was an outcry in Egypt and Sudan over last week’s signing of a cooperation agreement between Israel and South Sudan on water infrastructure and technology development. Warnings abounded that the pact between the government in Juba and Israeli Military Industries Ltd posed a threat to the water security of the two downstream countries and should be countered. Largely overlooked was the fact that their own inaction was mostly to blame for it.

Israeli designs on the waters of the Nile and on the resources of the African continent are hardly new. For years Israel has striven hard to forge ties with a number of African states and strengthen its presence in the continent, for both economic and security reasons.

In South Sudan, Israel has flaunted its ties with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – now the new country’s absolute ruler – and other southern faction leaders ever since the first southern rebellion began in Sudan in the 1950s. This was in line with a longstanding strategic doctrine, which was revisited in a 2008 lecture on Israel’s regional strategy by former Israeli security minister Avi Dichter.

This doctrine held, among other things, that Sudan, with its vast resources and economic potential, should not be allowed to become an asset to the power of the Arab world as a whole. As development in a stable Sudan would make it a threat to Israel, despite its geographical distance, Israel and its agencies should actively encourage the destabilization of the country by fueling successive crises until that instability becomes chronic.

The other acknowledged motive for Israeli intervention in Sudan was that the country constitutes the “strategic depth” of Egypt. In this regard, nothing could conceivably pose a greater strategic concern to Egypt and Sudan alike than a potential threat to their supplies of water from the Nile. Israel has succeeded in mounting such a threat with its latest pact with South Sudan and earlier agreements with other Nile littoral states in recent years.

The move comes against a backdrop of tensions over water issues between Egypt and Sudan and the majority of the other Nile Basin countries (the other riparian states are Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda).

Most of the upstream countries want major changes made to the arrangements that have long governed the management of the Nile’s waters. These include a 1929 agreement which requires Egypt to approve any large-scale water projects in upstream countries that would affect the flow of Nile waters. They also oppose a 1959 pact that allocates an annual 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water to Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic meters to Sudan, which they argue is unfair. Six countries have demanded a reallocation under a proposed new Entebbe Agreement, but Egypt and Sudan have rejected it. The pair – especially Egypt, which since ancient times has relied on the Nile for more than 95 percent of its water – would rather keep their historic shares, and insist there can be no new water agreement until contentious issues have been resolved.

Egyptian and Sudanese objections will not, however, stop South Sudan – which with its independence became the Nile’s 11th riparian state – and other countries from proceeding with large-scale water projects to meet their pressing development needs. These are bound to increase their consumption and impede the downstream flow. South Sudan occupies a strategic location in this regard, with about 45 percent of the Nile Basin’s water in its territory, and 28 percent of the river’s water flowing through it to Sudan and Egypt.

Yet both countries could have acted to avoid getting to this point.

Sudan’s relations with South Sudan began deteriorating from the moment the latter seceded, with political, territorial and financial disputes triggering military confrontation within months. The opportunity was missed of holding negotiations prior to independence on what proportion the South would get of Sudan’s water allocation, which would have enabled Khartoum to safeguard its interests. Water issues have since been overshadowed by other quarrels.

For Egypt, the Nile Water question arguably represents the greatest of the country’s many Mubarak-era foreign policy failures. The former regime neglected Africa diplomatically, and failed to sustain Egypt’s once-strong relations with the countries concerned. Its most tangible failure in this regard was its inability to persuade South Sudan to agree to the resumption of work on the long-stalled Jonglei Canal project, designed to save between 40 and 50 billion cubic meters of Nile water annually from evaporation.

Israel was quick to fill the vacuum. It has seized every possible opportunity to offer its backing to water projects in the upstream countries, through which to both put pressure on Egypt and Sudan, and gain leverage to help overcome its own water shortage.

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Far from a Humanitarian Savior, the U.S. Causes Vast Misery In Africa

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | July 24, 2012

The United States has finally made a token effort towards reining in its central African client state, Rwanda, whose destabilization of neighboring Congo has contributed to the deaths of six million people over the past 16 years. A United Nations panel charged that Rwanda has been supporting a Tutsi tribal rebel group in Congo. Rwanda and another U.S. puppet regime, Uganda, have profited enormously from stealing the mineral resources of eastern Congo, in collaboration with U.S. and European mining companies. At the end of last year, 1.7 million Congolese remained homeless, largely because of Rwanda’s continued interference in Congolese affairs.

Bowing ever so slightly to world opinion, Washington announced that it would cut military assistance to Rwanda. As it turns out, the only money the U.S. is withholding is for an academy for Rwandan non-commissioned officers – a measly $200,000 out of a total Rwandan aid package of $528 million. The gesture is an insult to the millions of Congolese who have been killed or displaced by the U.S. and its Rwandan and Ugandan mercenaries.

The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that the number of Somalis forced to leave their country has reached the one million mark. At root, this is also an American crime against humanity. Somalia ranks behind only Afghanistan, Iraq and Colombia in its number of displaced persons. And, like the other three countries, Somalia’s humanitarian crisis is the result of Washington’s imperial military strategies.

The U.S. dragged Somalia into hell in December of 2006, when it funded and armed an Ethiopia invasion of the country. Tens of thousands were killed outright, and Somalia was robbed of a chance to build peace under a moderately Islamist government. In the capital city, Mogadishu, alone, nearly two million people were forced from their homes, and soon the United Nations declared Somalia “the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.”

In the ensuing five years, the United States methodically attempted to starve out the Somali Shabaab resistance forces, so that when the worst drought in 60 years struck the region, last year, mass deaths were inevitable. By now, the U.S. had ensnared most of Somalia’s neighbors in its war – Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, a whole region in flames – in order to facilitate an expansion of U.S. military influence in the region.

Far from playing a humanitarian role in Africa, the United States is the main vector of mass carnage and misery, from Somalia to Libya to Congo and so many points in between. American policy in Africa is to create chaos, and then to present itself as the cure. Economically, the U.S. offers nothing to Africa, except rigged deals and endless debt. Years ago, China eclipsed the U.S. as a trading partner, and now offers Africa more and better quality foreign aid than the Americans. Unable to compete on a level laying field, Washington exports death to Africa, in the form of weapons systems and Green Berets. There is nothing good that the United States can do for Africa, but leave.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UN approves guidelines against land grabbing

DW | May 12, 2012

After three years of discussions, the UN has agreed a document meant to protect local populations against land grabbing. It should help ensure the right to food.

When big investors buy up land, small farmers are often driven from the land that feeds them. On Friday (11.05.2012) the 128 countries in the UN Committee on World Food Security unanimously adopted policies to protect the local population.

The voluntary guidelines specify how soil and land use rights, fisheries and forests should be handled. They are intended to increase transparency in land investment, give residents a greater say and especially to strengthen the position of the local small farmers. Often, they have only informal land rights – and no official land titles.

“The key point is that all rights for people to use land and other resources should be recognized, and that these people have proof. And they cannot easily lose these rights overnight because someone else may have more money or more influence,” said Babette Wehrmann, responsible for climate, energy use and rights at the FAO.

Up to 83 million hectares of land have been sold or leased to investors since 2000 – especially in Africa. The International Land Coalition, an alliance of non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, operates a website on which land investments can be followed. However, because many deals are not disclosed, the land-matrix database is far from complete, the ILC’s Michael Taylor says. Even so, some trends can be identified: African countries are of particular concern, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Targeted investments in countries with weak legislation

These countries are particularly vulnerable “because they have weak policies and weak land ownership legislation. The international investors sought out the most vulnerable countries where it was worthwhile to invest because of the fertile ground,” says Frank Brassel, rural development expert at Oxfam.

According to the country matrix the major investors include India, China and the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Even these countries have now agreed to the voluntary guidelines.

The ILC sees more risks than opportunities for local people in the land deals that are currently being negotiated, Taylor said. It would make most sense for investors to work with small farmers. Many countries are now worrying about new approaches to strengthen farmers’ rights, Taylor says.

“Countries such as Madagascar and Ethiopia have begun to issue certificates to confirm the ownership of land, and while they are not the same as a (legal ownership) title, they still ensure ownership of the land and only cost a fraction of the price,” says Taylor. “In Madagascar, the cost for a small farmer who wants to certify his land has fallen from 600 dollars to 15 dollars, or about 12 euros.”

This certificate assures the farmers that they can continue to cultivate “their” land. Because if big investors oust the local population, they lose twice: First, they can no longer grow anything, and second, the products are then mostly exported. So-called “flex crops” are especially popular – plants such as palm oil, soya beans and sugar cane – that can be sold according to market demand as a biofuel or food, says Taylor.

Local farmers are often forced off their land

And it would be a mistake to think that investors are looking for idle land, says Kerstin Nolte, an expert on land grabbing at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA).

“Investors are, of course, looking for land that is very fertile and is close to infrastructure. And that is usually populated,” says Nolte. “This means that it often involves expulsions.”

Nolte traveled to Zambia, Kenya and Ghana for field studies. In Zambia, traditional local authorities decide which family cultivates which piece of land.

“When the chief performs his role well in the traditional sense, then he will negotiate with the investor and consult with his people. These chiefs are only slightly better off, which means they do not have very much money, property or land” Nolte said. “That means the system is very susceptible to corruption, both because there’s no one monitoring the chief and because there are a lot of money or valuables coming in from the outside.” Nolte says that this has led to much communal land in Zambia being transferred to commercial agriculture.

The rapid growth of land grabbing in recent years has depended in particular on the fact that food prices have risen dramatically since 2007. “This has led to two major groups seeing that it pays to invest in land: the first are the Gulf countries and emerging economies such as China and India. They want to secure their future food supply by buying or leasing huge areas of land in weaker countries,” Brassel said.

“The other group is traditional investors, who have also seen that it pays to invest in land, for food and for biofuel, as both promise to be lucrative businesses for the future.”

The largest land grabbers are not necessarily foreign investors. “We hear from our member organizations working in countries such as these it is the local elites who are responsible for the largest land scarcity. The cumulative effect of many people acquiring small plots of land for speculative purposes may be greater than that of two investors who purchase vast areas of land,” Taylor said.

More transparency?

The experts agree the voluntary guidelines of the UN member states are now an important first step to strengthen the situation of the local population and create more transparency. The guidelines can help to set a certain standard for the local population.

Although they are voluntary, the guidelines could put a lot of positive developments into motion, Brassel says. Oxfam has seen positive effects of the 2004 voluntary guidelines for the human right to food, he says. Even so, Oxfam would have liked to expand the newly adopted guidelines against land grabbing. “We should have not only applied the guidelines to land, but also to water resources,” he said.

“We would have liked a statement at the beginning that says, in the next three years we will have a moratorium on large land investments to be able to apply these guidelines on-site in the most affected countries first.”

The protection of small farmers now depends on the extent to which the individual states consider the voluntary guidelines to be binding.

May 13, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , | 2 Comments